Right to protest is a constitutional right

Right to protest is a constitutional right

By recent events, it may have seem that protesting or ‘peaceful’ protest is a crime against the state, not just a minor crime but a grievous one which attracts capital punishments as protesters have been treated like common criminals in Nigeria; harassed, intimidated, brutalized, arrested and detained for lengthy period of time by security agents in Nigeria. This circumstance makes one to wonder if it is really legal and a fundamental right to protest in Nigeria.

No matter how the government of Nigeria May try to rewrite the law, right to protest is a constitutional right; a fundamental right duly provided for in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999. Citizens have the right to assemble, organize and lead ‘peaceful protest’. This right is not just an ordinary right but a fundamental human right, just like individuals have right to life, freedom to move about, right to vote and be voted for etc so also citizens have right to hold opinion, join peaceful association, register their displeasures with the government when they feel that the policies and decisions of the government doesn’t not serve their interest.

This citizens’ right to peacefully protest; join associations, assemble freely and hold public opinion was provided for in sections 39 & 40 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999. These sections read:

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39. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions:

Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorised by the President on the fulfilment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever.

(3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society –

(a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure. of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or

(b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.

40. Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests:

Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.

The right to protest is not just a territorial fundamental human right as provided in section 39 and 40 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as it not limited to the jurisdictional shores of Nigeria, it is a continental right which is duly provided for in Article 11 of the African Charter of Human and People’s Right. It provided thus:
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.

When a right is provided for in the constitution it points to how important that right is to individuals of the community and democracy cannot flourish when citizens of the state accepts whatever been thrown at them by the government hook line and sinker.

This is not just a political thing or a political agenda as people may think, so when citizens protest it is not a sponsored attack against the ruling government but it is a way of citizens who have the interest of the state at heart register their displeasures and force the government to see reasons with them, rethink and revisit their previous decisions and policies. It is in the human nature to resist some events or policies which he feels won’t benefit him.

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